Tuesday, February 06, 2007

A little about piracy

The BBC has a commentary about camcorder piracy that raises an interesting question or two.
First, I had no idea that Canada was such a source for pirated movies. Considering the frequency of Hollywood moving film and television productions to Canada, you'd think they'd have more of an interest in nipping that sort of thing in the bud.
From what I'm to understand, the film industry has been watermarking prints with little red dots in odd patterns. This was primarily to track exactly where bootleg DVD and video files came from.
Smart bootleggers might snip those frames from their masters, but I don't think any of them are that industrious.
Here's the thing I don't get. Pirated movies always suck. Even most DVD rips have tremendous artifacting issues in them. But the cams? They're unwatchable. The sound is utter garbage at best, and utterly incomprehensible most of the time. The picture quality is almost as bad. They're poorly framed, and you get the added benefit of any time someone in a theater moves, you see it.
As a way of duplicating the theatrical experience, cams might have some value. However, I've not seen one where the audience is particularly entertaining. Since bootlegs cannot adequately present the movie, I fail to see any value at all in watching one.
You pay roughly the same amount for a bootleg DVD as you do for a theater ticket. For that price, you get great sound and a sharp, pristine picture. You also get the communal experience of seeing a movie.
Some people have argued with me that you can watch the bootleg with a group of people at home on your big screen TV in your magnificent home theater. Well, what's the point? You can't hear anything. The video quality sucks. Sure, you're saving all that money on admission/concessions/parking/etc. For what? A movie you can't see, can't hear and can't enjoy. What a bargain!

I'll make it as simple as possible. There is no substitute for the theatrical experience. None. Even on a crappy movie, watching it in the theater is such an enhancement. Even those people who wait for a legitimate DVD and watch it in their home theater are missing out. There is NO CHANCE WHATSOEVER that their sound system is as good as even an average theater's. Sorry. Just isn't possible. And, come on, your DLP projector with an eight foot screen? Well, it doesn't compare to the 65 foot screen I watch movies on.
I'm not one for popcorn -- I ruined myself for that treat -- but grab something from the concession stand (or in the case of a theater with real food, the cafe). Munch on some candy or snacks. Sit down. Relax. Let the experience wash over you.
You just might find you enjoy movies again.
Home video is a great thing. It gives us an intimate connection to our favorite films. However, it's destroyed a generation of movie watchers who don't seem to understand that 1) it's really impolite to take that cell phone call in the middle of a movie or 2) you can wait until you're home to discuss who Jeremy is dating now. These folks are so used to the home experience of pausing, constant interruptions and generally not paying attention that they bring it with them to the theater. Worse yet, they don't seem to understand at all that the other people around them might actually be there for the film, and not them.

How do we combat either of these threats to our movie-watching enjoyment? Well, for one, patronize theaters that have rules. There's no reason a person taking phone calls in a theater should be allowed to remain. Simple economics dictates that you'd want to keep the majority of the customers over the single customer.
Patronize the places with better sound and projection quality -- chances are they pay their projectionists better, or actually (gasp) TRAIN them. If a place cares enough to present the movie in the best possible quality, they probably care enough to want to keep you as a customer. They're giving you an experience you can't duplicate at home, and it should be a special occasion. Even if you go weekly.
And fer cryin' out loud, stop downloading crappy bootlegs. That stuff's no good at all. Enjoy a movie like it was meant to be seen. Bigger than life and spread from one end of the horizon to the other.

I'll get off my soapbox...at least for now.

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